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Mr. Velvet Vocals, Adrian, on his 20 years of music

by Mahmood Hossain

Adrian’s a cappella must be experienced.

By Mahmood Hossain

Music is one of the most powerful forms of art. It sways the motionless, evokes every emotion, and binds to significant, life-altering memories. For many people across the world, it’s also a source of inspiration and motivation and serves as a therapeutic outlet for times when we cannot appropriately express our suppressed feelings. Kahlil Gibran once said, “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife.” This is a sentiment that has been embedded within Adrian from the moment he exercised his most prized asset: his voice.

At first glance, Adrian can be perceived as a smooth operator with impeccable taste and style, projecting the charisma and confidence of a 12th-century troubadour with a native Aussie accent. His showmanship is a significant aspect of his profession but he is also a consummate professional and perfectionist. This was hinted at to me in our first meeting a year ago when I first experienced his musical fl air. Fast-forward to our second round of banter at the Osca & Blanco Bar and Restaurant, where Adrian performs every Friday evening; there was more clarity as to what makes this man from Melbourne so magnetic.

“The love of music came from my family,” shares Adrian. “My mum and dad are singers; my family are all musicians. I grew up singing in church with gospel music. The church was my school. I was never formally trained in music outside of that environment. Singing gospel is where I found my love for music. Gradually, I transitioned out of gospel and into rhythm and blues. I really didn’t get into jazz until I came to Thailand because of how big it is here. You won’t find the same high demand for it in Australia; it’s just not as prominent.”

Moving beyond his origin story, Adrian and I continued our conversation, diving a little deeper into his musical influences, experiences over two decades, and his foray into Indian weddings and events.

When you began your career outside of gospel music, there must have been famous singers/performers who inspired you along the way.

Most definitely! In terms of an overall entertainer, it has to be James Brown. There was Sam Cooke, of course. Very early on, people used to compare my voice to Stevie Wonder. Obviously, I’m nowhere near his talent but I was able to reach his notes and sing all of his songs. In fact, the first song I ever sang was, “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. The other would definitely be Prince, for his diversity and the different genres he used to play with. All their energies were on a different level. And for a more modern take, there is D’Angelo and Maxwell who were huge R&B influences in my career.

That energy you speak of is something you definitely show in your performances. How do you channel that energy from venue to venue?

That comes with experience, reading the crowd, environment, and atmosphere. It comes from constantly watching the crowd. When I go into a room, I have to first set up my microphone. Second, check the volume of the people talking. For example, at a restaurant, I have to be careful not to overpower the people talking and to become a nuisance or abrasively interrupt their conversations. On the other hand, at a club, people are looking for higher energy. Then, there is reading the different age groups, making it easier to decide what type of songs I should be singing or what the band will be playing. Lower keys and warmer tones are also better for restaurants, whereas it would be the opposite for a club setting.

It’s less about me and more about providing a kind of therapy. Some people who come to these venues are working five to six days a week and want to come to these venues to let go of their worries. And if they see me performing there, my number one goal is to help them relax on that one evening, so they’re able to escape their stress and tension. Music is therapy for me. If I can give that back to the audience it means the world to me.

Even at a wedding, picking the right music is critical; it sets the tone for the event. You have the usual love songs but some people will throw in songs that are completely different than something that is romantic. And I would question why because every word I sing should fit the occasion. On the topic of weddings, you’ve had a blast at Indian weddings it seems. Not to mention, performing at the latest Masala Wedding Fair this past June.

It has been absolutely amazing working with the Thai-Indian community. When I was first approached to perform in community events, I was pleasantly surprised I had what they were looking for when it came to their wedding festivities. Almost straight away, we gelled really easily. I also have this huge repertoire of older music that many Thai bands just don’t play. You combine that with what the Thai-Indian community grew up listening to, I think it worked out perfectly; their familiarity with the music made it easier for me to deliver what they wanted. They saw that I would be the right fit for what they were looking for.

I’ve worked with several wedding planners, event organisers, and other personnel in the industry and they have all treated me with the highest of respect. They have been amazingly patient with me as well because I’m a perfectionist, so I ask a lot of questions before an event. The sound needs to be spot-on; my musicians need to be well-briefed ahead of time, and I need to make sure rehearsals are done on time. A wedding is a lifetime event. There is no room for error. Imagine messing up the first song, or even worse, ruining the newlyweds’ first dance. It’s high pressure, so I don’t take the risk of not being a perfectionist.

How do you want to leave the audience feeling after your performances?

Create a vibe, set the tone, and leave a calming or fun impact on the audience before they take their leave. The food may be good and the company may be amazing, but the music can make or break a night too. My goal is to catch people with the first note of the first song that I sing, and I hope it’s a fulfilling experience by the time
I’ve sung my last note.

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